7 May 1999

No need to join ACCS to prove grain quality

FARMERS do not have to take part in the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme to prove the quality of their grain production systems, says a North Yorks farmer and agricultural engineer.

A scheme based on principles used throughout industry can be just as effective and, critically for smaller farms, cheaper, says Stephen Metcalfe.

The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point approach is internationally proven, widely accepted in the food industry and guidelines to help set up ones own schemes are freely available on the Internet, he says. "Supermarkets have HACCP. Why reinvent the wheel?"

His 61ha (150-acre) West Appleton Farm, Hornby grows winter wheat and oilseed rape. A HACCP scheme using Lotus Organiser software to keep the required records and to trigger key inspections and critical control actions has been running a year. "We did not want to be left behind. We wanted to get our act together, but we did not want something forced on us."

A key feature of HACCP is that it is self-policing, he says. "Canada has introduced HACCP for its grain and Australia is doing the same. If it is good enough for the Canadians it is good enough for me.

"Whatever system you go down it is how it is implemented that matters." ACCS inspections may be as infrequent as one every three years, says Mr Metcalfe.

One example of the controls introduced at West Appleton involves spray recommendations. All advice from the farms independent agronomist is checked by Mr Metcalfes pesticide suppliers before being put into practice. A variety discrepancy has already been picked up by the exercise, he says.

"The real benefit of HACCP is that it is more specific and relevant to each farm business and less onerous than the rigid ACCS." Compared with a £150/yr outlay for ACCS, implementing it cost only £100, he estimates. That included £30 for a manual on the subject from the Chipping Camden Food Research Association.

lTurn to p60 for more on ACCS. &#42

HACCP

&#8226 Logical and practical.

&#8226 Widely recognised.

&#8226 More flexible than ACCS.

&#8226 Cheaper alternative.

&#8226 Used in Canada and Australia.

Fertigation will beat advances in GM crop yields

By Andrew Swallow

CROP nutrition through irrigation, or "fertigation", will bring growers greater yield benefits than any GM advance, reckons Tore Frogner, Hydro speciality field fertilisers manager.

He and other delegates at the International Fertiliser Society meeting in Brussels last week heard how potato and vegetable yields can be boosted 15-20%. And quality control is improved, he notes.

But growers going into fertigation must beware of supplying excess nutrient, warns Israeli expert Avi Shaviv.

"On average the plant is exposed to much lower concentrations of nutrient at any one time than it would be with a conventional one dose soil application. That means growers can apply two or three times more fertiliser without affecting crop health.

"But that could well be much more than is needed. Often a crops maximum needs are satisfied with the same amount of nutrient, producing higher yields. In some instances with fertigation growers could use half the conventional dose of fertiliser and crops would still perform better," he stresses.

In Cypriot trials, presented by Kemira fertigation specialist Leena Ristimaki, potatoes under fertigation yielded 67t/ha (27t/acre), 22% more than when the same amount of fertiliser was applied as a soil dressing, even with drip irrigation.

Advisors tend to build an element of insurance into fertiliser recommendations anyway, notes Dr Shaviv. Under fertigation that could easily lead to excessive recommendations, especially if crop nutrient uptake curves are not taken into account. Overdoses could be compounded by growers adding their own insurance level, resulting in a substantial leaching risk.

"This technology has the potential to be very environmentally friendly. But the danger is with high-value crops growers wont mind applying a little excess," he concludes.

FERTIGATION

&#8226 Precise nutrient supply in irrigation.

&#8226 15-20% yield increases possible.

&#8226 Not for all crops.

&#8226 Controlled release fertiliser complementary, but too costly for field crops at the moment.

SAC/SA venture on way

FIRST steps have been taken to weld Scottish Agronomy and the Scottish Agricultural College in a joint venture to provide agronomy advice on combinable crops.

The move follows the college launch last year of consultancy services in the dairy, potato and business management sectors.

The new arable joint venture would see the Scottish Agronomy title retained and its chairman, Huw Phillips, remaining at the helm.

The SAC crops division would provide specialist skills and services and the science base to support the new business.

Its final shape will be decided after further consultation. &#42

Next step for slow release

CONTROLLED release fertilisers combined with fertigation technology promises to take yields even higher than fertigation alone.

Kemira trials in Cyprus using half controlled release fertiliser and half fertigation to deliver nutrient to potatoes gave the highest yields of all: 70t/ha (28t/acre), compared to 67t/ha (26t/acre) under fertigation and just 55t/ha (22t/acre) under conventional management, with all using the same amount of nutrient.

"But the problem with controlled release fertilisers is they are currently so expensive – five or 10 times the price of ordinary compounds," notes the firms international fertigation specialist, Leena Ristimaki.

Controlled release fertilisers are the latest advance on slow release fertiliser technology. By changing the coating used, nutrient release from the fertiliser is matched to the target crops demands.

But the high price is likely to limit use to speciality uses such as potted shrubs or flowers for the time being, she concludes.

Acid phosphate best

FERTIGATION with alkaline water causes problems.

Therefore, most growers add acid to prevent calcium salts precipitating out and clogging pipes, delegates at a recent meeting of the International Fertiliser Society heard.

Delivering phosphate as highly acidic urea phosphate, rather than widely used but only moderately acidic monammonium phosphate, could remove the need for adding acid, claims Kemira.

Whats more, phosphate availability to the plant is increased at lower pH, so fertiliser rates can be cut.

"To us as a fertiliser company this is a bit embarrassing," says the firms Leena Ristimaki. "But from the farmers point of view this is a good thing if he can get the same yield from less phosphate." &#42

Urgent need for pgr

WITH an estimated quarter of wheats in the north missing out on a chlormequat spray, growers should make sure they try to apply a late growth regulator, advises David McKnight of Selby based Cropwise. "There are numerous options including Terpal, Satellite and Cerone. But the most important point is to get something on." &#42